Where does rosé champagne come from ?
Nothing symbolizes luxury as well as an elegant, rosé champagne. Striking yet feminine, it always feels like an exclusive treat. Sometimes, it’s a deep salmon color and other times, the most delicate of rose petal pinks. But how much do we know about the creation of our favorite rosé champagnes are made?
It’s useful to be aware that only a few grapes are allowed to make champagne. Three of them make up more than 99% of the plantings: two red varietals (pinot noir and meunier) and one white (chardonnay). The other grapes are the more confidential white varietals arbane, petit meslier, pinot blanc and pinot gris. If you read 'Blanc de Noirs’ on the label, this means ‘white from black (red) grapes’, so the wine in this bottle would be made using only pinot noir, meunier or both. ‘Blanc de Blancs’ on the other hand means ‘white from white grapes’ - in champagne this means that the wine will be made with 100% chardonnay.
Blending red and white
The simplest way to make pink champagne was invented by the widow (veuve) Clicquot back in 1818. Madame Barbe Clicquot Ponsardin (her full title), was the very first person to blend red wine and white to make rosé. To this day Veuve Clicquot Rosé is made by adding red base wines to Clicquot’s yellow label champagne. Deceptively simple, it’s a short cut to elegance.
Creating Color from Skins
The other way to make rosé wine is a little more complicated. Not many people realize that the vast majority of red wine grapes are actually white on the inside, and in the Champagne region, pinot noir and meunier are no exception. The red color in wine comes from soaking the skins with the juice from the grapes. If you intend on producing a pink wine then this can be done for just a few hours. Keep them soaking for a lot longer if you want the wine to be red. This is called the ‘saignée’ or ‘maceration’ method and is said to produce a more elegant result when compared to simply blending red and white wine.
Ruinart: an ancient record
Ruinart, the world famous champagne house, has been making rosé champagne for over two hundred and fifty years. Ancient records show that the first ‘maceration’ rosé was created there as far back as 1752 and explains how it used to be referred to as ‘partridge eye’, thanks to its coral hue. Today, Ruinart rosé is created using the blended method and carries an unusually high quantity of chardonnay that’s generally not seen in other rosé champagnes.